Who looks silly, now, NPR?

I was recently interviewed by National Public Radio (“NRP” to you nerds who regularly listen to it…o.k. I listen to it, too). The reporter from NPR was doing a story about how social media has affected the debt collection profession. As a debt collector, let me just get this out in the open once and for all, because I really don’t care what the bleeding heart liberals of NPR think.
YES, MY OFFICE USES SOCIAL MEDIA TO TRACK DOWN DEBTORS. Yeah, I said it. What are you going to do about, NPR? I tell you, my dear readers, what they did do. NPR did the story and painted me as something beyond callous hard hearted. They characterized me as a violator of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Well guess what, NPR, the joke is on you because I am an expert under the FDCPA and I am right in what I am doing. I may be a heartless debt collector (or “bottom feeder” as some of you like to say…but sticks and stones, right?), but I am good at my job and I do it well.

You can view the article at NPR finds debt collectors using Facebook to track delinquent Borrowers. Here is what we do. We find debtors on Facebook and other social media and friend them. Why? Because people just loooove to talk about themselves. Hell, you get me talking about sailing or karate and you cannot get me to shut up either. Oh well. But here is the proverbial rub. The FDCPA requires that all communications from a debt collector in connection with the collection of a debt disclose to the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector. See 15 USC 1692e(11). So, the question is whether “friending” a debtor on Facebook is such a communication that requires us, as debt collectors, to disclose that we are friending the debtor for purposes of collecting money from him. NPR took the position that this was illegal and violated the FDCPA. The fact is that it does NOT.
We have an interesting opinion out of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in the case of Mabbitt v Midwestern Audit Services, Judge Nancy Edmunds decided that a letter from a collection agency that merely informed a debtor that his old utilities balance would be added onto his new account was a communication not made in connection with the collection of a debt. Case No. 07-11550 (2008). Judge Edmunds held”

Plaintiff suggests that “the FDCPA should be interpreted to cover communications that convey, directly or indirectly, any information relating to a debt.” (Pl.’s Resp. [*9] at 5.) This approach, however, ignores the plain language of the statute, which applies only to actions taken “in connection with the collection of any debt.” (emphasis added). See, e.g., Estate of Gerson v. C.I.R., 507 F.3d 435, 438-39 (6th Cir. 2007) (when “Congress has directly spoken to the precise question at issue . . . we apply the plain language of the statute”). Thus, the question becomes whether Defendant’s December 29 letter satisfied this criterion. 4
4 Plaintiff focuses on whether the letter was a “communication” under the FDCPA. This argument misses the mark. The FDCPA defines a communication as “the conveying of information regarding a debt directly or indirectly to any person through any medium.” § 1692a(2). This definition encompasses Defendant’s letter. The question remains whether the communication was made in connection with the collection of any debt.
The FDCPA does not define “in connection with the collection of any debt.” And while the Sixth Circuit has not addressed this issue, the Seventh Circuit has recognized “that a letter informing plaintiffs of the current status of their account and demanding no payment was not a communication ‘in connection with the collection of any debt’ under the FDCPA.” McCready v. Jacobsen, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 9651, 2007 WL 1224616, *1 (7th Cir. April 25, 2007) (citing Bailey v. Security Nat’l Servicing Corp., 154 F.3d 384, 388-89 (7th Cir.1998)). Moreover, Black’s Law Dictionary states that “to collect a debt or claim is to obtain payment or liquidation of it.” 6th Ed. 1990 at 263. Defendant’s December 29 letter makes no demand or attempt to obtain payment of a debt. Instead, it notifies Ms. Perry that an outstanding balance has been transferred to her new account. And while the letter states that the transfer was made for her “convenience in making payment,” it contains no language that she is required to pay the debt. Instead, the letter specifically states that “should [she] have any questions concerning this matter, please contact your local Consumers Energy office.” (Def.’s Mot., Ex. 2.)

Essentially then, the collection notice that does not ask for money ain’t a collection notice and thus is not governed by the FDCPA. So how is “friending” someone on Facebook any different? We aren’t asking for money as much as we are to be accepted and loved by our new best buddy, right?
So, NPR, who looks silly now, huh?

If you have any debt collection related questions, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin for a free consultation.  Visit our website at www.creditor-law.com.  For more information about collection law, follow our blog at www.michigancollectionlawblog.com or call (888) 293-2882.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 and is filed under Uncategorized . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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